Blast from the Past: Joe Mauer’s Inside the Park Homerun
Posted by hugelycat , 14 August 2014 · 1,274 views
Long time reader, first time poster. Free pizza is a wonderful motivator.
I’ve been scratching my head all day wondering what I could come up with on Joe Mauer that hasn’t been discussed ad nauseum. So I wandered over to Mauer’s Baseball Reference page looking for inspiration. Looks like he had at least equal walks to strikeouts every full minor league season… interesting enough, but it is Joe Mauer, so I almost expected that. I wonder if his HR log has anything interesting. Wait a minute -
Here we go! Maybe most of you remembered Joe's inside the park HR, but I certainly didn't. So let’s take a closer look.
The day is July 21, 2007. It’s a gorgeous Minnesota summer day, at a balmy 82 degrees, with a nice breeze in the air to cool things down.
Of course, we can’t feel that breeze – we’re in the Dome. Your Minnesota Twins are currently fighting to stay in the playoff race with a record of 50-46, at third place in the division, eight games behind the division-leading Tigers. Something of a disappointment after a strong 2006 season, but I think most of us would be happy being 4 games over .500 today. The Twins are facing the AL West-leading Angels, who are currently 56-39, only half a game back from having the best record in baseball.
On the mound, we have two young pitchers, each enjoying their sophomore season in the bigs. The Angels’ Jered Weaver has yet to reach his All-Star heights, but he’s still sporting a shiny 3.30 ERA. How will the Twins counter this young rising star? By bringing out their own not-quite-rising not-quite star, Boof Bonser, who is then dazzling onlookers with his 4.53 ERA (a number that was only destined to rise).
The matchup goes just as you would expect. It’s a pitching duel.
Neither team can get much going on offense. In the second, things look promising for the Twins, as Justin Morneau leads off with a double, and the next batter, Torii Hunter, singles him over to third. First and third, no one out, but the Twins manage to squander their advantage. Jason Kubel, then in his second year as a Twin, grounds out to Weaver. That allows Hunter to advance, but Morneau is held to third. Twins journeymen Garrett Jones and Darnell McDonald then strike out and pop out, respectively, to end to the threat. It's a fitting inning for a season that hasn't exactly gone as planned.
The game remains scoreless until the 6th, when renowned Twins slugger Jason Bartlett knocks in a solo home run. Bartlett grins. “They’ll never trade me now!” he thinks to himself as he rounds the bases, never noticing the looming specter of Delmon Young plodding the basepath behind him.
The Twins add another run off Weaver on a solo Torii Hunter HR the next inning, and Boof continues to perplex the Angels through seven scoreless innings. But all good things must come to an end, and the Angels get to Boof with a Chone Figgins RBI triple with two outs in the 8th. Pat Neshek comes in to relieve Boof, but not-a-Twin-yet Orlando Cabrera singles Figgins home to tie up the game. Boof leaves with a final line of 7.2 innings, 5 hits, 2 runs, no walks, and a single strikeout. The Twins somehow manage to strike out only one batter all game – Reggie Willits. Willits does not start Sunday's game, and he slinks back to Los Angeles in shame. Actually, all of the Angels return to L.A. after Sunday, but only Willits slinks back.
It’s Joe Mauer’s time to shine in the bottom of the 8th. Two men are on board, Jason Bartlett (trade him already!) on first and Luis Castillo (trade him too!) on third. Nick Punto had also managed to single earlier in the inning. However, being Nick Punto, he promptly got himself picked off second base. After working the count to 3-2, Mauer rips a pitch from Scot Shields to center. Gary Matthews Jr. makes a valiant try at leaping for the ball, but he can’t get to it. The ball ends up rebounding off the wall, with Matthews rolling to the ground. Mauer rounds the bases with more speed than we’re used to seeing from him. He gets waved around third and scores standing on an inside the park homerun. It ends up being the game-winning hit, as Joe Nathan closes out the next inning and the Twins win 5-2.
And after the game, Joe Mauer remains Joe Mauer. As reported by ESPN, Mauer told the media that
"'I was afraid of falling over when I hit the bag at third,' joked Mauer, who guessed the last time he hit an inside-the-parker was in Little League on a field with no fences. 'It's a long ways around there and I haven't done that in a while.'"
So there you have it. An opportunity to explore an iconic Twins game for a free pizza. Can’t beat that. It’s a good excuse to get me going on this site, and I look forward to seeing all of you around.